AN announcement last week that over 70 councillors from all over south Huntingdonshire had given their overwhelming support for a cinema in St Neots was a very positive step. However, at the same time readers may not have noticed a press release by the pr
AN announcement last week that over 70 councillors from all over south Huntingdonshire had given their overwhelming support for a cinema in St Neots was a very positive step. However, at the same time readers may not have noticed a press release by the primary care trust (PCT) regarding a St Neots polyclinic.
When consulted by the PCT, St Neots Town Council made it quite clear that the favoured location for this clinic is on the outskirts of St Neots. The clinic would be best located near the railway, Loves Farm and bypass.
This would enable easier access by car without passing through our town centre, access for our many commuters who could use the longer-hours clinic on the way to and from work, use cheaper land available there and, most of all, would not occupy valuable land in our already degenerating town centre.
We should also remember that this clinic is being funded by the NHS for a larger area than St Neots and will draw traffic from Cambourne and south Cambs and Bedfordshire.
It is curious that only responses to the PCT's questionnaire regarding location were mentioned in the press. What appeared to be a very biased questionnaire received only 500 responses for a population of 30,000, and a potential catchment population of more than twice that number, most of whom were never consulted at all.
According to the PCT, 45 per cent want the polyclinic built in our town centre (I'm not sure this will be favoured by those attending from Cambourne etc, who were not consulted). A further 26 per cent wanted it at least a mile from the town centre, and 29 per cent wanted it located on the outskirts of town, ideally Loves Farm area.
So 45 per cent (225 respondents want it in the town centre) and 55 per cent (275 respondents) don't want it in our town centre, and I think you could add all those travelling from outside St Neots to this number.
Why is the PCT so hell-bent on building in our town centre? Well, the NHS budget for polyclinics is in the hundreds of millions of pounds, and some local GPs understandably want to get as large a slice of this as they can. But getting a large slice for the sake of it is not in the best interests of St Neots.
There is only one location in our town centre that can accommodate a cinema, and this is the proposed Huntingdon Street site owned by our district council. If this site is not used for a cinema, our rapidly growing town will be permanently deprived of that much-needed leisure facility.
If our polyclinic is built in our town centre, there is only one location large enough - our proposed cinema and theatre site on Huntingdon Street - so St Neots will lose out again.
In 1973 when St Neots lost its urban district council, assets where split between district and town councils. The area of the recycling depot was transferred to district as custodian of the asset for the benefit of our town. That land was not purchased as an investment by district as a way of raising funds at a future date for, say, new £10million offices.
The PCT may have a large budget and be able to outbid cinema operators, and HDC may be an impoverished district council but, at a time when St Neots will shoulder the lion's share of the district's new houses, we should have both a town centre cinema and a polyclinic conveniently located on the edge of town, not next to Cedar House Surgery.
On October 10 at 7pm, there will be a presentation of the cinema proposal at St Neots Town Council's meeting at the Priory Centre. This meeting is open to the public and anyone interested in knowing more about the proposal or wishing to show support would be very welcome.
Councillor BARRY CHAPMAN
St Neots Town Council